An important part of a childminder’s role is to help ensure that children are ready for school. The skills that children need to learn to be ready for school are interwoven throughout the EYFS, but what are they, and what can childminders do to make sure the children they look after are ready for school?
What does the EYFS say about school readiness?
Ensuring a child is ready for school is not a process that only takes a few weeks. In fact as soon as a child starts attending your setting you should be helping provide them with the skills they need for school and for life.
The EYFS states:
The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards that all early years providers must meet to ensure that children learn and develop well and are kept healthy and safe. It promotes teaching and learning to ensure children’s ‘school readiness’ and gives children the broad range of knowledge and skills that provide the right foundation for good future progress through school and life.’
By providing a broad and balanced curriculum for the children in your setting you will be cementing the foundations for their life in school (and beyond.) The EYFS details lots of different skills but there are some skills that are especially useful for a smooth start to school life:
Communication and Language skills
Communication and language skills are essential for children starting school. A child that can communicate will find it much easier to make friends, tell an adult their needs and ideas, and will be able to follow instructions. Think about if the child can:
- Listen quietly to a story
- Follow simple instructions
- Communicate their needs and wants to others
Childminders, with their quieter settings and smaller group sizes, are in an ideal position to help children develop strong communication skills ready for school. Make sure you make plenty of time for things like listening to and telling stories, music and rhyme time, and activities covering listening, understanding and speaking skills.
Personal, Social and Emotional Skills
These prepare a child socially and emotionally for starting school. They are skills that enable children to get on with their peers and follow the rules and requirements of a setting. Children need to be confident to be able to learn, to ask for help and to communicate their needs. Can the child:
- Separate happily from a grown up at drop off time
- Do their own shoes up
- Put on their coat
- Attend to their own toileting needs
- Wash their own hands effectively
- Eat their lunch by themselves, using a knife and fork
- Cooperate with others
Children need time and support to practice these skills, and this is where a childminder can stand out from busier settings with tighter schedules and less time. For example, give children plenty of time to practice core skills such as putting on their own shoes and coat. Time is something they will not have as much of at school, so a chance to try these things at a more relaxed pace is extremely valuable.
Encourage children to be self-sufficient at mealtimes by providing things like child-friendly cutlery and jugs for children to practice pouring from. Encourage children to open their own food packets, etc. They may not have as long for lunch at school and will have to share an adult helper with more children so the more they can do for themselves, the better.
The physical skills children need, to be able to settle well into school, are not all about fine motor activities like writing. In order for children to be able to interact with their peers they need to be able to keep up – literally! A child that gets out of breath after a couple of minutes while their friends run and play is often, sadly, a child that gets left out. Obviously if a child has specific health needs it can be hard to prevent this, but childminders can help all children by providing lots of opportunities for children to develop their strength, stamina and gross motor skills. For example by taking them on plenty of outings to natural areas where they can run and walk long distances that they may not get the chance to otherwise.
There are lots of fine motor skills children will need in order to start learning to write, for example drawing lines and circles with gross motor movements, holding a pencil near the point with first two fingers and thumb, and starting to copy some letters, as well as skills such as being able to use one handed tools like scissors.
The Characteristics of Effective Learning
Being ready to explore all that school can offer must come hand-in-hand with a desire, ability and willingness to learn, (for without these no child is ready for school!) Think about how you help children develop the characteristics of:
- Playing and Exploring
- Active Learning
- Creative and Critical Thinking
Working with Parents
It is important to work with a child’s parents to help them be school ready – firstly, by helping parents with activities that will help support all the skills mentioned above, and secondly by stopping well-meaning parents teaching their children to do the following:
- Learn to write their name solely using capital letters
- Use the names of the letters rather than the sounds
- Use the wrong sounds for letters
- Recite numbers to 100 without any real understanding of what they mean
These are all things children will have to unlearn. So, by signposting parents to resources such as videos on YouTube showing the correct way to phonetically pronounce the letter sounds, you are doing the child a great favour.
6 Tips to help with a smooth transition to school
- Include some school uniforms in your dressing-up kit.
- If you are close enough, plan some walks to the area around the school or maybe even along the route the child will take.
- Incorporate pictures of the school into homemade books for the children to look at and talk about. Depending on the school they may even have some pictures of inside that they can share with you.
- Read books about starting school.
- It may be appropriate to invite the child’s teacher to visit them in your setting, especially if you are the child’s main setting.
- Complete a transition report with the child’s parents.
Useful Resources to help you with school readiness tasks
Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit
Our Super Summative Assessment and Gap Tracker Kit has everything you need to complete a transition report and contains information schools will ACTUALLY find useful! It includes a specially designed transition report template as well as written samples of the things you might like to write.
Like all the other tools in the kit, the transition form has been designed to be quick and easy to fill in. However, if you would like more guidance about what to include, there is also a completed sample with lots of ideas of the sorts of things you can write.
Characteristics of Effective Learning Pack
This pack contains information about the characteristics of effective learning (COEL), broken down in a way that is easy to absorb. There are plenty of ideas for you to try out to promote the COEL in your setting and to help you to improve understanding of them.
Using any of the ideas in this pack can help promote the COEL in your setting and give the children a boost into the start of their school life.